Tuesday, January 13, 2009
"Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character", by Richard Feynman as narrated to Ralph Leighton
As noted by me in my blog post here, I severely dislike biographies and autobiographies. Biographies are just hearsay and gossip. Whereas, Autobiographies are rarely inspiring, with most of them being self-absorbed and boring. There are many exceptions I allow in Autobiographies, since there are quite a few good ones, but rarely have I found interest in a biography.
But as always I love anecdotes from the famous people themselves. So this wonderful book by Feynman is autobiographical but not an autobiography. Just like my previous acquisition of President Eisenhower’s anecdote collection – “At Ease: Stories I tell my friends”, this one too gives a thrilling look at the daily lives of people that changed the world.
The book is divided into 5 parts – His childhood home to MIT, years in Princeton, the bomb and military work, Cornell, Caltech and Brazil trip, and finally his life as a physicist.
Each of these parts have wonderful episodes from his life and the people he met. He explains his interest in science, the luck he has had, the thoughts he pondered, the things he tried, the life he led.
A man with varied interests, he was a physicist in the time when no one knew what a physicist could be employed for. He faked speaking Italian, played assorted pranks on his neighbouring children, he behaved as himself in MIT as well as the British themed Princeton. His interests are as diverse as in biology, philosophy, safe-cracking, mindreading, human sense of smell compared to a bloodhound, Japanese culture/ etiquette, Las Vegas, bar-hopping, playing in a street band in Brazil’s carnival, painting, painting nude women, Jewish and other religious beliefs, dislike of celebrity life after the Nobel prize, Mayan codex and math, providing music for a ballet, out-of-body experience, playing drums, etc, etc, etc.
This winner of Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965 and team member under Los Alamos atom bomb scientists has had an incredible and adventurous life.
I would say his insatiable curiosity about his world is what made him a great scientist, an adventurer and popular with every professor or peer or student.
He spoke his mind, irrespective of speaking to illustrious people such as Einstein or Pauli or anyone else. Because when he spoke of physics he always gave his best theory and deductions.
My favourite chapters? It would be very difficult to say. Like in “You just ask them” a bargirl and her husband tell him that if he wanted to bed a woman, why doesn’t he simply try and ask them. Various other social experiments ensue. In “I want my dollar!” and “An offer you must refuse” he tells about how the scientists at Los Alamos sold their ideas and patents to US Government for a dollar (formality) and how he managed to claim his dollar; with the latter chapter telling us how he saw honour in work and teaching rather than earning easy money.
“A different box of tools” illustrates the value of self-learning and how he managed to find new ways while everyone else tried to solve things by what they had been taught as the correct method.
His daring mischief is brought out to the forefront in “Uncle Sam doesn’t need you!” when Feynman plays around with the team of psychiatrists evaluating him for fitness for Military enrolment. “Who stole the door?” in the first part of the book shows you how Feynman has always been mischievous and gets away with most pranks.
But if you were to ask me of one chapter alone; if you as a reader had time for nothing in the book except to read one chapter alone; I would highly recommend you to read the very last one – “Cargo Cult Science”.
This last chapter is easily the very best advice a scientist or teacher can give eager students of science. It shows clearly how education is supposed to train you to solve rather than train you to imitate.
Feynman clearly led a fulfilling and enriched life. The fact that someone could have such a rewarding diverse life experience (that too back in 50s 60s) makes me want to crawl under a rock and die in shame.
Sunday, January 04, 2009
>> Arabs and Jews - Palestine and Israel
There are many movies made in Hollywood on World Wars and the various conflicts that Americans have bravely faced.
But there are many other old feuds in the world that has never been successfully marketed in the box office.
Yes War is about hate and revenge and also money !
So why not make more entertaining movies on the War - it will be better than Fox News coverage for sure, don't ya think ?
So this movie is a great adventure based on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. It provides great insight into the lives of Arabs and Israelis displaced from their ancestral home and living in free America as immigrants.
Does the conflict get carried over to USA ? Do they unite to live in the Democratic Civil Liberties promised to them by the great new promised land - America ?
This story primarily follows an ex-counterterrorist named Zohan. Tired of the never-ending war, this Israeli hero fakes his own death and comes to New York to build a new life. But he finds that the past is not so easy to forget or outrun. It catches up to him and the neighbourhood where he works for a humble normal lifestyle. Into the mix is a real estate developer who wants to incite hatred in the New York community so that he can destroy these Arab/Israeli shops and build a mall (with a roller-coaster inside it).
Zohan, in the midst of struggling to defeat his own grim past finds himself in Love with a beautiful, generous, kind Palestinian girl.
What will be the solution of this never-ending hate war ? Will Zohan live his American Dream ? Will the people of the neighbourhood realise their common brotherhood ?
All this and more - check out the movie for yourself - no matter what you do - don't mess with Zohan ..........
You don't mess with the Zohan
(And I have a poster of that movie :p sadly there is also a Batman Dark Knight print on its backside - how do you frame such a 2-faced poster ? (get it 2-face - have you seen the Batman movie ? ) )